How to Be More Productive on Your iPad at Work

How to rock your iPad at the office

Working hard no matter the time
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It's easy to use the iPad to get some work done, but if you really want to be efficient with it, you will need to know about its powerful features and download the right apps for it. This includes letting the iPad become your personal assistant, using the newest apps to draft documents, and leveraging the cloud to sync documents between devices and collaborate with teammates.

Take Advantage of Siri

Siri on iPad

Siri isn't just for ordering pizza or checking the weather. It's at its best working as your personal assistant. Siri is quite capable of keeping up with reminders, setting meeting times, and scheduling events. It can even take voice dictation, so if you aren't handy with an on-screen keyboard but don't use it enough to buy a real keyboard, the assistant will do the heavy lifting for you. In simple terms, Siri may be the single most effective productivity tool that is bundled with the iPad.

Siri works in combination with the iPad's Calendar, Reminders, and other apps. These apps also sync through iCloud, so you can set a reminder on your iPad and have it pop up on your iPhone. And if multiple people use the same iCloud account, they will all have access to those calendar events.

Here are a few things Siri can do for you:

  • "Remind me to attend the 9 AM Miller meeting at 8:30 AM on Tuesday." This statement will set an 8:30 AM reminder about a 9 AM meeting, which is handy if you need to prepare for it.
  • "Set up a meeting with Chris Miller tomorrow at 9 AM." This will block off your calendar for 9 AM the next day. The default event time is for one hour, but you can tell Siri how long it will last. 
  • "Take a note that the dimensions of my desk are 36 by 24." Don't want to load up the Notes app and type in some quick information? Siri can do that, too.  

Download an Office Suite

The Pages app for the iPad Pro is a full-featured word processing app that's compatible with Microsoft Office

One of the little-known secrets about the iPad is that it comes with an office suite. Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, which make up Apple's iWork productivity apps, are free to download to both iPhone and iPad. This gives you access to an incredible range of apps that can help with word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations.

Microsoft Office is also available for the iPad. Not only can you get Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, but you can also download Outlook, OneNote, Lync, and SharePoint Newsfeed.

You can also download apps for Google Docs and Google Sheets that will make using Google's cloud-based tools much easier. 

Integrate Cloud Storage

Screenshot of the Dropbox iPad app

Speaking of the cloud, Dropbox is one of the most productive apps on the iPad. It makes backing up your important documents on the iPad easy. It's also great for working on both your iPad and your PC at the same time.

Dropbox can sync a file in seconds, so you can go from taking a photo and making touch-ups on your iPad to doing a deeper layer of edits on your PC and then back to your iPad in seconds. Of course, Dropbox isn't the only game in town. Several other great cloud storage solutions exist for the iPad. And Apple has made it easy to manage cloud documents with the new Files app and the drag-and-drop feature.  

Video Conferencing

FaceTime app showing the dropdown menu to turn it off.

The iPad excels in communications. You can even use it as a phone, and between FaceTime and Skype, the tablet provides easy access to video conferencing. But what about full-blown video meetings? Cisco WebEx Meetings and GoToMeeting both offer iPad apps for collaborating, brainstorming, and staying organized with a team of people.

Scan Documents With Your iPad

Scanner Pro

If you have an iPad, you don't need another device dedicated to scanning important documents like contracts and tax forms. The iPad's camera is quite capable of acting as a scanner, and thanks to a number of really good apps, it's easy to take a picture of a document and clip it so that it looks like it actually went through a real scanner. Most scanner apps will let you copy the document to cloud storage, mark up the document, print it, and send it as an email attachment.

Scanner Pro is one of the leading apps for scanning documents. To scan a document, align it within the camera's confines. Scanner Pro will wait until it has a steady shot and automatically snap the photo and crop it so that only the document appears.

Buy an AirPrint Printer

AirPrint compatible printers
image credit moodboard/Cultura/Getty Images

The iPad is compatible with many different printers straight out of the box. AirPrint allows the iPad and printer to communicate through a local Wi-Fi network, so there's no need to connect the two devices. Get a printer that supports AirPrint, connect it to your Wi-Fi network, and the iPad will recognize it. 

You can print from within iPad apps by tapping the Share button, which looks like a box with an arrow coming out of it. If the app supports printing, the "Print" button will appear in the second row of buttons in the Share menu. 

Download the Right Apps

(c) Screenshot by Cindy Grigg, Courtesy of Evernote

If you need to take notes goes beyond what the built-in Notes app is capable, and especially if you need to share those notes with other non-iOS devices, Evernote can help. It's a multi-platform, cloud-based app that has all the features of Notes and a few more.

GoodReader is not only a great way to read PDF files, but it will also let you edit them. GoodReader connects to all of the popular cloud storage solutions, so you can plug it right into your workflow.

Does your need to manage tasks extend beyond what the iPad's Reminders and Calendar apps can provide? Things is one of the top productivity apps on the iPad because of its superiority as a task manager.

Multitasking and Task Switching

Multitasking in iOS 12

After you've loaded your iPad up with great apps, you will want to navigate between them efficiently. Task Switching provides the ability to quickly shift between different apps. You can activate Task Switching by double-clicking the Home button to bring up the task screen and simply tapping on the app you want to use. The iPad keeps the app in memory when it is in the background.

You can also bring up the task screen by placing four fingers on the iPad's screen and moving them toward the top so long as you have multitasking gestures turned on in the iPad's settings.

But the fastest way to switch between tasks is by using the iPad's dock. The new dock allows you to put more icons on it for fast access. It also displays includes the last three apps you've opened. These icons are on the far right side of the dock.

Recently opened apps in iPad dock

You can quickly access the dock within any app by sliding your finger up from the very bottom edge of the screen. 

Want to multitask? The dock can help you out there too. Instead of tapping the app icon to switch to it, hold your finger down on it. When you have an app open and you tap-and-hold an icon on the dock, you can drag it onto the side of the screen. If both apps support multitasking, you will see the full-screen app move over to share the screen with the second one.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro

Photo of iPad Pro with the 10 featured apps onscreen. Hand holding Apple Pencil hovering above the screen.

If you really want to boost your productivity, you should think about buying an iPad Pro. The difference between the iPad Pro and Apple's other tablets is huge. The iPad Pro rivals most laptops in terms of pure processing power, it doubles the RAM found in other iPads, and it has the most advanced display of any iPad, including support for wide-gamut colors.  

But it's not just the speed that will make you more productive. The additional screen space on the 12.9-inch model is great for multitasking. And if you do a lot of content creation, the bigger on-screen keyboard is roughly the same size as a physical one.

Learn How the Pros Navigate the iPad

Spotlight Search on iPad

And if you want to be more productive on the iPad, you will want to be more efficient while using it. A number of navigation shortcuts can help you get where you are going faster. For example, instead of hunting for an app, you can quickly launch it by swiping down on the Home Screen to bring up Spotlight Search and typing the app name into the search bar. You can also launch apps using Siri.

Add Websites to the Home Screen

Add webpages to home screen on iPad

If you frequently use specific websites for work, for example, a content management system (CMS), you can save time by adding the website to your iPad's Home Screen. This will allow the website to act like any other app. To create the shortcut, navigate to the web page, tap the Share button at the top of the screen, and then choose "Add to Home Screen" from the second row of options.

The icon will act like any other app, so you can put it in a folder or move it to the iPad's dock, which will give you quick access to it at all times.

Buy a Keyboard

iPad Smart Keyboard
Product Images & Info/Apple Inc.

The iPad's keyboard is easy to use, especially with keyboard shortcuts like skipping the apostrophe and allowing AutoCorrect to insert it. The iPad also lets you dictate any time the keyboard is on the screen by tapping the microphone button embedded in the standard keyboard. But if you are going to do a lot of typing on the iPad, nothing beats a physical keyboard.

The iPad Pro line of tablets supports Apple's Smart Keyboard, which may be the best overall keyboard for the iPad. One nice part about Apple keyboards is that PC shortcuts like Command-C will also work on the iPad, saving you from tapping on the screen. And when you combine it with the virtual touchpad, it is almost like using a PC.

Don't have an iPad Pro? You can also use Apple's Magic Keyboard with the iPad and get many of the same features. The only thing it won't do is charge through the iPad Pro's new connector. 

Want to save money? Or go with something different? There are a wide variety of third-party keyboards like Anker's Ultra Compact keyboard and Logitech's Type+, which is a case with an integrated keyboard.

The key to buying a wireless keyboard is to make sure it supports Bluetooth and look for iOS or iPad support on the box. If you would rather a keyboard case, you'll want to make sure it works with your particular iPad model. Earlier iPad models pre-iPad Air have different dimensions, and with three different sizes for the iPad, you definitely want to make sure the case fits your particular model. 

You can also use a wired keyboard with your iPad, but you need to have the camera adapter.